May 06, 2013
Credit: Air Canada
It is to the Playbook that United Airlines aircraft-on-ground (AOG) teams turn to get aircraft back in the air. Similar to a football team's game plan, the Playbook is an electronic list of the partner airlines, parts suppliers and logistics providers that support United around the world.
“Domestically, an AOG is pretty straightforward,” says Pete Rosa, director for United AOG operations. “When you're flying internationally and dealing with customs, it's much more complicated.”
United's Playbook highlights how AOG work is morphing from a maintenance event to a supply-chain event.
“To make money on airplanes, you have to keep them flying,” says Al Koszarek, president and CEO of Aeroxchange. “Because it is financially unsustainable for an airline to put all the inventory it might need at every place it flies, sharing, collaboration and a logistics network have become the silver bullet in the AOG world.”
That is especially true as airlines shrink their fleets and reduce investments in spare parts and components. “With smaller fleets, a plane that's out of service for a day or two has a real impact on schedules,” says Brian Prentice, a partner at Oliver Wyman. As a result, AOG work is maturing as a process. “Airlines are putting more formalized pooling agreements in place,” he says. “They are becoming more structured about insuring that their sources of parts are open and available. And they are adding more supply-chain tools to their kit.”
In one sense, an AOG event is a simple process. When an aircraft goes out of service, a mechanic notifies an airline's maintenance control center of the reason. At that point, the AOG team goes into action. The team looks first to see whether the airline has the needed part in stock and can send it to a mechanic in a timely fashion. If not, it determines how best to source the part and arrange for its transportation and delivery. That may involve putting the part on the next scheduled flight or having it carried by a courier.
What differentiates an AOG situation from a routine maintenance event is urgency. The AOG motto at United is: “Five minutes makes a difference.” “Essentially, the AOG operations team is the last line of defense,” says Rosa. “Our direct focus is to minimize any service disruptions to the passenger.”